Making the Grade in Dorm Room Energy Efficiency

Around 20.5 million students will attend a college in the United States this fall. While the percentage varies at each institution, many of these students will live on campus in dormitories. While these dorm rooms are a great way for young adults to learn how to live independently, it is also a great way to develop eco-friendly habits. Efficiently using dorm room energy saves money and greatly reduces waste.

Going into my freshman year of college I wasn’t thinking about energy efficiency. Sure, I always turned off the lights when I left my room at home, but I never spent much time thinking about my energy consumption or how I could eliminate inefficiencies. Part of this is most likely because I was never faced with a utility bill. My family of four never charged me for my electricity or water use, so it wasn’t a concern for me. My parents taught my brother and me to turn the lights off if we weren’t in a room, but looking back at my college freshman year, there is still huge room for improvement.

My negligence of energy consumption changed this summer after working as an intern for Chateau Energy Solutions. Chateau is a great company that helps businesses use their energy more efficiently. This saves the business money, while also benefitting the environment.

After being exposed to the benefits of using energy more responsibly, I considered how energy efficient I had been when living on my own for the first time. When determining how to grade my freshman energy efficiency, it’s hard to concentrate on any other space than the one where I spent the majority of my time, my dorm room. My roommate and I spent huge chunks of our freshman experience in this 13×12 foot room, and inefficiently used lots of energy. However, despite practicing many bad habits, we unknowingly developed energy efficient habits as well.

Things I didn’t manage well:

TV, Xbox: My roommate and I didn’t get a TV until the third month of school. However, this left more than enough time for us to improperly manage electricity with it. There were many mornings when we would wake up to Netflix asking us, “Are you still there?” Unfortunately, this was not exclusive to the TV, we would also leave the Xbox on overnight. While an Xbox does not consume very much energy, it was still misused and worth mentioning.

Mini-fridge: Another area where I misused electricity was with our room’s mini-fridges. One of the first weeks we were on campus we discovered four extra mini-fridges sitting in the storage area of our dorm. These fridges were collecting dust, so my roommate and I decided to put one to use and join the one we already had in our room. Did we need two mini fridges? No. Was it a waste of energy? Absolutely.

Heating/cooling: The most wasteful habit I exercised was abusing the thermostat in my room. I was on the football team my freshman year and would often practice in heat ranging from 100-110 degrees. After sweating in this heat, I would come back to my room and crank the AC much lower than I should have.

Things I did manage well:

Dorm Lights: My freshman year I was living in California. One wall of my 13×12 dorm was almost all window. The blinds on this huge window let in a ton of California sunshine. While this was very annoying when I was trying to sleep in, it made the use of my dorm lights almost exclusively obsolete. Hey, unintentional efficiency still counts, right? From where I failed wastefully using electricity on fridges I made up for with these dorm lights.

Water Consumption: I also didn’t use much water. As mentioned before, I was living in California. During this time the state was experiencing a pretty bad drought. Couple a drought with the water heater in my building breaking every other week and my showers were often very short. Again, a good habit that was not developed by choice. However, after reflection and being exposed to the importance of using my energy and water consumption efficiently, another one that will definitely stick around.

Carbon Emission: I didn’t have a car on campus. Furthermore, there wasn’t much need for a car. My campus had a little village nearby with restaurants, stores, and anything else I needed. This 35-minute walk was a regular part of my week. When I did need to go somewhere further away I would use ride sharing apps. With high fuel costs in California, the cars in these ride sharing services were almost exclusively hybrids. By not driving many places and using more ecofriendly vehicles, I efficiently used energy that I often wasted on transportation when at home.

Final Grade: B-

I completely misused my heating/cooling. After spending the summer interning for Chateau Energy Solutions, I now realize the importance of monitoring outside vs. inside temperatures as well as varying set temperatures based on peak hours. I didn’t need the room as cold as I had it while I was at practice and class. Furthermore, a simple portable fan could have kept me cool and saved lots of energy. My electricity use could be corrected pretty easily. I needed to turn off the TV and Xbox when not in use and not have the extra mini fridge. My water consumption was efficient and my carbon footprint from transportation was relatively small.

Identifying my good and bad habits will allow me to better use energy in the future. Working with the Chateau Energy Solutions’ team has not only been a pleasure, it has given me the knowledge to reduce my utility bills for the rest of my life. Chateau’s team has a variety of ways they can save organizations money, and I recommend them to any business owner that wants to reduce operating costs and benefit the environment.

Want to learn more on how to improve the energy efficiency in your dorm room? Check out this article – Shrink Your Dorm Print – which is a campaign that provides a tip sheet and shopping guide to create an eco-friendly dorm room.